dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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We Should Elect Hard Workers

January 23rd, 2022 by dk

Democrats should embrace the hard work of government.

Democrats have failed to bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals within their own party, much less bridge the widening abyss with Republicans. It’s time to build a new one — not a new bridge; a new gap. Revive the talking filibuster. Expose the widening rift between those in Congress who want to work hard and those who would rather take it easy.

This distinction should favor liberals. They are the ones who believe that good government and public service are worth the effort. But to be honest, I’m not so sure these days.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave himself a deadline to deliver voting reforms to the American people — several, in fact. He wanted it done by Martin Luther King Day. That had a nice ring to it, after blowing past other self-imposed deadlines. But his neighbor in New Jersey, Sen. Robert Menendez, took longer than expected to recuperate from shoulder surgery in December.

Getting legislation passed before the Monday holiday became impossible because every Democrat would have to be present for the vote, including Vice President Kamala Harris. So the plan then became to hold the vote on MLK Day. Voting against voting rights would look bad on the day set aside for one of its biggest heroes.

Then news came of possible snowstorms sullying Washington D.C. So Schumer sent everybody home for the weekend, rather than trying to muscle a bill through the Senate. Geez Louise! Democracy will be saved from its looming existential crisis by a historic Senate vote — weather permitting?

King held many rallies to lead the civil rights campaign that defined and ultimately cost him his life. Never once did those outdoor rallies depend on AccuWeather’s 5-day forecast. When the majority party can’t stay in town to vote because of inclement weather, sloth has become our most dangerous adversary.

We should make being a senator hard work again. While the House tinkers with the wiring and plumbing of our nation, the Senate should keep it protected from the elements — the roofers of our democracy. Standing astride an uneven pitch, searching for leaks in the rain or the heat — that’s the hard work of maintaining a republic.

Sen. Jeff Merkley wants to bring back the talking filibuster, which would drastically change the workings of the Senate. It would also impact the work required of each senator. Changing the work has become more important than changing the workings. Senators have gotten soft and too comfortable in their cushioned incumbencies.

Filibuster talkathons with enforced quorums will quickly dissuade members who value posturing over productivity. There’s no point in making dinner plans when any one of your 99 colleagues might launch a talking tirade that keeps you in session through the night. Deliberation on the floor should outweigh liberation of its members. Once that happens, who needs term limits?

Talking filibusters will focus but not fix the disfunction of the United States Senate. That’s enough. If the Senate wastes its time on meaningless gestures, at least let’s not have the American people suffer more than the senators themselves.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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The Unthinkable has Arrived in Eugene

January 21st, 2022 by dk

Americans keep falling prey to the same thing, over and over, with increasing frequency. The tragedies and the dangers they represent are as varied as the people and forces that instigate them, but they can be summarized in a single word: unthinkable. And now the unthinkable has come to Eugene. We won’t be the same, and we shouldn’t hope to be.

On Friday night, a gunman shot six people outside the back door at the WOW Hall and fled on foot, heading west on 8th Avenue. Police responded almost immediately, arriving less than three minutes after gunshots were reported. Four fire crews, five ambulances and scores of first responders quickly swarmed the scene.

The gunman — a young man in a hoodie — has not been identified. The FBI has joined the investigation. All six gunshot victims are expected to recover, but the trauma from the scene ripples outward indefinitely. Shock protects us, but only momentarily.

Soon, the “what if” scenarios begin to take hold — those who visited the WOW Hall earlier or planned to attend an event there soon, those who live nearby or know some one who does, those who pass that corner regularly for whatever reason. It will affect all of us and it should. The unthinkable must now be considered.

Our nation has always had moments that we didn’t think were possible until they happened. Pearl Harbor, assassinations, impeachments, hostage crises, mass shootings. They seem to be coming more frequently, like birth pangs insisting that the current order cannot be sustained.

Each unthinkable tragedy startles the imagination. It jostles us, but will it awaken us?

Tragedies are meant to gather us as we grapple with the same sadness and fear. Or, operating alone, we circumscribe ourselves outside the current conditions. We insist it can’t happen to us, even if it just did. We draw circles smaller and tighter, excluding ourselves from the circumference of circumstance — safely on the edge of our imagined Venn diagram. The unthinkable cannot occur for (and to) me.

“It was a hip-hop concert and I never listen to that music. It was at the WOW Hall and I haven’t been there in years. The gunman shot at people who were smoking and I don’t smoke. It was a Friday night; I stay home on Friday nights.”

When the “we” is imperiled, the “me” seeks safety. It’s natural. Survival instincts kick in. Unattended, our individual attempts to cope with the trauma will separate us from others. Hypochondria or paranoia sometimes follow.

The healthy response is to feel the sadness, the grief, the fear, until it passes. (And it will.) We must recognize and acknowledge what was always true. We’re never totally safe. We don’t know what the next moment will bring. Our time here is short.

Things happen that we wish didn’t. We wish they couldn’t happen but they do. We care for the victims (I count the gunman among them), knowing that we’re all at risk in similar ways. The unthinkable requires something new from us. Each of us must find it, or it will find us.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Can Kristof Disrupt Oregon for the Better?

January 14th, 2022 by dk

Nick Kristof encountered disruption often in his globetrotting career. But can he create a favorable disruption from the status quo for Oregon as its next governor? Our meeting at a nearby coffee shop began with disruption — staffing shortages shuttered its doors. Instead we enjoyed a break from our welcome rains, sat outside and took a short walk.

I didn’t ask him about the residency controversy that has dogged him this week. Only one of us had anything new to say on the subject, and I wasn’t the one being interviewed. Suffice to say, he’s not deterred by this disruption. He will continue campaigning until his lawyers or a judge tell him he must stop.

“Tell me,” he said, resisting the urge to pull the reporter’s notebook from his back pocket, “what are people in Eugene talking most about these days?” I appreciate that he is using his campaign to learn about our concerns and priorities. Too many campaigns rely on pollsters for that.

He deserved an honest answer: “How would I know? How would anyone know? What does that even mean in this pandemic age?” If we bump into somebody at the grocery store, will we even recognize them with a mask from more than six feet away? Our isolation-ward life is a circumstance that hasn’t yet become a consequence. But it will.

If anything, he leaned into the situation at hand. Voters seem open to — maybe even hungry for — an unconventional candidate who approaches our problems with fresh eyes. Journalism trained Tom McCall quite well. Those are great footsteps to follow.

“Journalism essentially promotes accountability,” he told me. And then he did take out that notebook from his pocket. “We keep track of things. We tabulate results. We ask around. We circle back.” (Those weren’t his exact words. My notebook was still in my pocket.) Kristof described accountability that focuses less on organizational hierarchy and more on end users. Fresh eyes!

Kristof was one of the first to notice hopelessness in our rural areas. He wrote a book about it in 2019, from his farmhouse in rural Yamhill, Oregon. He thinks green energy production could revitalize eastern Oregon. If our wide-open spaces can once again produce what our population centers need, we’ll rebuild the American Dream right here.

Turning our focus back, he asked how Eugene is coping with its unhoused population. I pointed two blocks south and asked if he’d like to take a walk. “Sure,” he said. “Stretching my legs sounds really good.” We walked over to Nightingale Hosted Shelters to tour a tool invented in Eugene. Nobody’s favorite part of Show and Tell was ever Tell.

He marveled at the simplicity of the Conestoga Huts — no special tools, materials, or skills required. With a few hundred dollars and a couple of days’ effort, anyone can be lifted off the ground, protected from elements above, tucked safely behind a locked door.

We didn’t say a word about it, but we were taking in what pollsters miss. Oregon is a place where simple solutions can disrupt conventional wisdom.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at Read Kahle’s view on resolving Kristof’s residency status at

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Simply Resolving Kristof’s Residency Controversy

January 13th, 2022 by dk

Nick Kristof is still running for governor of Oregon. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan declared him to be disqualified last week, shortly after three of her predecessors stated that they would have left the matter for voters to decide. The issue will now be resolved in the courts, where case law precedent is thin but probably favors the candidate.

Oregon’s constitution is clear on its residency requirement. “Article V Section 2. Qualifications of Governor. No person … shall be eligible to the Office of Governor … who shall not have been three years next preceding his election, a resident within this State.” In other words, you cannot be elected governor in Oregon on Nov. 8, 2022 if you weren’t a resident of Oregon on Nov. 8, 2019.

Trouble is, our state constitution doesn’t define “resident.”

Fagan based her determination on voting records. Those records are maintained by her office, so it makes sense to start there. Kristof voted in New York in 2020. But he paid taxes in Oregon, bought property, maintained a farm, and spent plenty of time in his childhood hometown of Yamhill, Oregon.

Jeanne Atkins, Bill Bradbury and Phil Keisling, all former secretaries of state, wrote for The Oregonian that the candidate’s intent must be considered paramount. “Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, a person should be presumed to be a resident of the place or places they consider to be home.” 

Kristof may own multiple houses, but he has only one home. After that, voters should be trusted to make their own judgement about whether Kristof is Oregonian enough for them. Fagan’s move would remove his name from ballots, denying voters a choice. Who would have guessed that voter suppression could become an issue in Oregon?

Lawyers will do what lawyers do, but the controversy must not become the context. Here’s a simpler residency test. Ask around.

Yamhill County lists the city’s population at 860. The city’s website: “Yamhill is a small community with 1105 citizens who are proud to call it home.” Wikipedia counts 1024, and Google counts 1346. All sources agree it’s not very many. Is Nicholas Kristof is among them? Ask the people who would know.

Walk into the Trask Mountain Outpost on Main Street, order their famous Bacon Bloody Mary, and ask the bartender, “Does Nick Kristof live around here?” (Don’t use the word “reside.” They’re suspicious of city slickers.) Greet Kristof’s neighbors when they come out to get their mail and ask, “Who lives in that farmhouse over there?”

Most of us don’t know our neighbors, but we know which houses near us are vacant. Has Kristof established his residency with the people who matter most — his neighbors? We’re a small state. We’re all neighbors. If his name appears on the May ballot and voters don’t think he’s qualified to be governor, they’ll say so. What could be simpler than that?

Kristof’s campaign will bring him into people’s homes. If voters aren’t comfortable with him, they’ll find a candidate who makes them feel more at home. The candidate’s definition of home certainly matters, but not as much as the voters’.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Oregonians Lack Key Tool to Fight COVID-19

January 7th, 2022 by dk

Sometimes it’s difficult to notice something you don’t have. You never had it before, so what’s the difference? You begin to want it only after you see others who have it. That’s not always envy, though it usually is. We sometimes simply lack awareness. I wouldn’t bother bringing this up except that increased awareness here might save lives.

Oregon is one of only 13 states that still hasn’t activated coronavirus exposure notifications for our smart phones.

Governor Kate Brown posted on her social media accounts this week that the omicron variant has begun its march through our population. The post includes a graph beneath an encouragement to get vaccinated. “We all can do our part to save lives, support our health care workers, and keep our families safe.” But is the state doing its part to save lives? It doesn’t look like it.

Contact tracing is the third leg of the COVID-19 prevention stool. If everyone could be immunized at the snap of a finger (by surviving an infection or by getting vaccinated), the virus would stop spreading immediately. It would die quickly without any human hosts. That’s herd immunity and it has served our species well for millennia.

We’ve failed to stop the virus but we can slow its spread by masking and social distancing, and quarantining when necessary. We do these things to lessen the chance of spreading the virus. They won’t eliminate those chances entirely. Those who harbor the virus don’t immediately show symptoms, so transmissions often happen invisibly.

Contact tracing can make the invisible visible.

Smart phone apps can help when all our precautions have failed. The software operates in much the same way as the virus. While our bodies are exchanging air that may contain droplets carrying the virus, our phones can invisibly exchange encrypted contact information by a short-distance bluetooth signal.

Then if somebody gets sick with the virus, the software can anonymously inform those who were recently proximate. Our phones can then tell us we might be infected before we exhibit any symptoms. Asymptomatic covid carriers can then act to prevent the spread.

But only if the software is downloaded onto Android phones and activated on iPhones. That responsibility has been left to the states, and Oregon is lagging behind.

Thirty-seven states from Alabama to Wyoming have made the technology available to protect its citizens. Washington and California have done it. So has Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and many Asian nations. The benefits have been verified around the world. Why are Oregonians denied them?

Senior advisors for the Oregon Health Authority announced last January that they hoped the software would be completed and implemented by April of last year. From my research, the topic has rarely been raised in the past nine months. Wyoming can equip its citizens with this extra layer of protection, but Oregon can’t?

I called the Oregon Health Authority, requesting an update on the effort. No one was available to return my call. Take their slow response in this life-or-death context however you think is fair, but notice it.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Bowling Taught Me Lifelong Lessons

January 6th, 2022 by dk

Everything I needed to know about life I learned in my 4th grade bowling league. Our games started at 8:30 every Saturday morning and arriving late to Hoffman Lanes was not an option. I’ve been an early riser, even on weekends, ever since.

My mother sent me to Scott Cruickshank’s house with $1.10 in my hand, which covered the cost of three games, plus the shoe rental. I was always afraid of losing that dime. I keep track of little things pretty well to this very day.

I honestly don’t remember anymore how we got to the bowling alley. I think we walked. No, I’m sure we did, at least some of the time. As my fingers started this paragraph, I began to recall debating with Scott whether we had time to cross the highway at the corner or whether it was necessary to cut through back yards and cross a drainage ditch to save time. 

That road was a busy one — four lanes with a median strip in the middle. Did our parents really trust two ten-year-olds to make that trek? Apparently so. I’ve jaywalked with the best of them since childhood.

Scott and I always got to the lanes earlier than necessary because if we were late, they might not still have bowling shoes in our size. Then we’d search for a ball to fit our small fingers. Rich kids had their own ball and shoes, but we didn’t know any rich kids. We’d only heard about them. We didn’t have embroidered bowling shirts either. We dressed for comfort. I still do.

We figured rich kids didn’t bowl because their fathers didn’t. They played golf instead. They played to fill a hole. We tried to empty one. Filling a space is easier than clearing one.

Last week’s scores were always posted on a bulletin board near the restrooms. There was my name, on the board, every week! It was my first published work.

My name was always listed among three others — my teammates. This lesson continues for me — in me. Each of us performs as best we can, but the score that matters is collective. The value of our effort lies in what it contributes to the whole.

You’ll notice that I’m nearly finished with this reflection and the game has not yet begun. The game itself is like a holiday dinner’s centerpiece — it’s beautiful to look at, even if it’s the one thing on the table you can’t eat.

I never got very good at bowling, but I loved the sport anyway. I thrilled watching players handle pressure, focusing on their technique. The outcome was always 60 feet away. You wish you could run down the lane and kick the pins over, but I’ve literally never seen that happen.

Yes, it would be wrong and not allowed. But also this: it doesn’t exist. Most things that are that wrong also don’t exist. Most dimes don’t get lost. Tight shoes hurt but do no harm. Even when my scores were bad, I was still glad to see them posted.

Finally, there’s something unique and important about how bowling is scored. No one knows who to thank for this. The scoring of strikes and spares was standardized in 1895, but the scoring system was invented earlier. 

Knocking down ten pins with one throw is worth ten points more than two gutter balls. But if that frame is nestled at the center of five consecutive strikes, those felled pins account for 60 points, not 10. No other sport aligns success and stress so elegantly.

Self-help gurus tell us to live in the moment and they’re not wrong. We can control only what’s in front of us, even if it’s 60 feet away. But the consequences of our actions can extend and compound. Ten pins in certain contexts can count for 60.

Excellence rewards those who sustain it. Where did I learn this lesson? Say it with me now! At the bowling alley.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at He hasn’t been inside a bowling alley in decades.

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Reflections on Snowy Stillness

January 2nd, 2022 by dk

If we all share one daily challenge, it’s to enjoy each season of our life. Mastery in one season gives us no boost in the next. Just as we become experts at climbing trees, we decide we’d rather sit under one with a romantic partner. Marriage, family, and career don’t leave much time for sitting under trees.

Now I’m watching the trees around me — some I planted myself — marveling at their stature. They invite tree-climbing children now. Their bark has slowly grown over any carved initials. How many hours did I spend raking their leaves?

My son’s young family is feeling the daze of the holidays. I’m enjoying my quietude just a few miles away. As they play with their children, equipping and protecting the future that’s entrusted to them, I sit — grateful to see the future in good hands. They’re making memories. I’m having a few.

My favorite circus act as a child featured porcelain plates, spun and placed on slender sticks. The performer wiggled the stick to speed the spin, added a second spinning plate on a second stick, then a third, then a fourth. Can he spin a dozen plates without breaking any? (This may have been the act that originated the warning, “Kids, don’t try this at home!”)

The audience alternated between hush and cheer, inhaling and exhaling, warning the performer which plate was wobbling off its stick, reeling toward wreckage. He’d save that plate and set it spinning while other plates slowed precariously. There was no time for satisfaction.

Isn’t that what life felt like during those middle decades, setting things in motion, watching a dozen details with only two eyes? Slowing down or pausing to reflect could put it all in peril. We abandoned Sabbath as an artifact of pre-industry. Holidays were marked red on calendars, but we no longer stopped. We filled them with festive frenzy.

Truth be told, I never cared much for holidays. I got chickenpox when I was five on the day before Labor Day. It was our turn that year to host the neighborhood BBQ. I was quarantined behind the storm door, watching others cavort in my yard while I was alone in the kitchen. I suppose I never recovered.

I chose quietude this Christmas, wishing for a layer of snow to muffle each motion. The next morning my gift arrived, as if delayed by supply chain issues. Thank goodness Sunday deliveries are now a thing. What a perfect weekend for the world to stop spinning!

I played a smidgeon of music, but mostly I enjoyed the silence. I wanted to disarm my wind chimes, but couldn’t figure out how. The chimes baffled me, instead of the other way around.

I made peace with the chimes, telling myself that even silence needs a soundtrack. Their dulcet tones gave voice to the wind. When the chimes stopped, they declared stillness. And stillness is worth knowing in this season of life. It’s more than miles away from my grandchildren, but it will come their way eventually. And so we hope.

If the circus performer was lucky and good, he’d survey his plates all spinning, spread his arm for applause, take the quickest bow, and then race to snatch each plate from fate. Only then could he stop to enjoy the cheers. Only then could the crowd stop holding its breath. Performers understand that hush is a cheer without noise.

Hush fills this moment and this season. It feels like that final held breath, just as the last plate is secured — that moment when faces shift from worry to delight. He did it! Success! Everything is safe!

As I write this, it’s still snowing. It’s snowing stillness. No one has anywhere to go. Everything we need is right here. “It’s enough,” the world whispers. We hush and we cheer for new performers — inhaling, exhaling — happy to be still, happy to still be.

In the hushed stillness, I can hear the silent soundtrack. Life carries on. One day I’ll be what it carries, but not yet. Questions still abound. What is still needed? What can still be known? Ask those who are still with us. This is their season too.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Omicron is Here to Teach us About Disruption & Despair

December 30th, 2021 by dk

Welcome to the third year of coping with COVID-19. We’re no longer underclassmen in pandemic education. Here’s what we’ve learned. Herd immunity was always our best hope for returning to normality, but it appears that ship has sailed. We won’t be safe from infection until the whole world shares that resolve and the resources it requires.

In retrospect, it never was possible to contain the virus quickly enough to stop its spread. We can limit flights and guard our borders, but we cannot quarantine a continent. And so we must adapt, learning the Greek alphabet one variant at a time.

We don’t yet know enough about omicron to make predictions, but that doesn’t matter. Delta is still around. Winter has moved us indoors. This flu season could be a bad one. More variants are coming and we haven’t figured out how to get tests to Americans or vaccines to the world, so we’ll keep adapting — trying not to make things worse.

We know what’s immediately ahead: disruption, disease, death and despair. And we also know what will be required from each who is able. In a word, grace. Indiscriminate grace — patience, generosity, understanding. Abundant grace. Amazing grace.

We won’t all agree about the dangers or the remedies. That ship has also sailed. But every person who needs care hopes for the same thing — kindness, mercy, grace. Everyone who has the strength can spare these for anyone who asks. There’s no need to teach anyone a lesson. The virus has that part of the curriculum well in hand.

If we attend to one another, that may thaw what’s gotten frozen. Tribes keep their members by distrusting all outside their circle. All that’s needed is to do what’s needed. Arguments are proven wrong this way — not by counterarguments.

Once someone feels seen, cared for, and known — that reminds every good heart what’s worth knowing and caring and seeing. It won’t come quickly. But gaining strength every day, we can feel hope again. Hope redounds first to the giver — the gift before the gift.

Set aside the disease and the deaths. If omicron proves to be more contagious and less lethal than previous variants, the next months will bring disruption and despair in greater measure than before.

What happens when everyone gets sick at once? Holiday travelers experienced the so-called “flightmare before Christmas” because airlines couldn’t staff their scheduled planes. Hospitals are filling already, with the peak of the projected surge still weeks away.

Many sickened by omicron have been vaccinated. Even if things get better, will they stay good? That despair is mostly silent, but we can still hear it. It echoes inside us. It ripples around us. It calls us to action. In this garrison of grace, we’re all First Responders.

Start the kindness caravan where you’re going to be — in line to return holiday merchandise. The person processing your return has been designated an essential worker, but usually not given extra pay. As the ranks thin behind them, they are doing difficult work that may feel impossible. Thank them.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Let’s Make Resettling Our Thing

December 29th, 2021 by dk

You didn’t hear much about it, but the Oregon Legislature convened a special session last week to address a few pressing needs across the state — illicit marijuana farms, rent assistance, drought relief, and youth education to stem street violence in Portland.

Included on that short list was $18.2 million to help Afghan refugees settling in Oregon with housing, education, legal aid, job training and other culturally responsive services. Lane County will see a healthy portion of those funds as Oregon gears up to resettle 1200 Afghan refugees.

In 2016, Catholic Community Services became Lane County’s official refugee resettlement agency, operating in partnership with the Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County. Under Trump’s presidency, refugees were seldom allowed in, so the coalition pivoted to assist asylum-seekers. Now it is serving both asylum-seekers from central America and refugees arriving from Afghanistan.

RRC volunteers work directly with clients, or behind the scenes in numerous ways. Urgent needs center on housing, employment, learning English and cultural orientation. Others focus on what is necessary to make the effort sustainable: fundraising, community engagement and all the administrative details.

In between, there are continual needs: trucks for delivering home essentials, English-language tutors, drivers to medical appointments, childcare assistance, and advocates who can work closely with clients to help them to integrate into our community.

Imagine coming here without friends or funds and without understanding our languages — spoken and unspoken. Add to that the trauma they endured before and during their departure. The needs are myriad.

If Lane County earns a reputation as a welcoming place for refugees, word will get out and volunteer needs will multiply. Funding and other support tends to flow toward places that demonstrate the capacity to expand their efforts.

Plans are already underway to hire a second part-time caseworker and an employment specialist, but staffing is a trailing indicator. This effort will always rely on volunteers primarily. That’s where you come in.

New volunteers receive an overview of the work and the organizational structure, followed by specific training and support for the area where they feel they can be most useful. Those who have direct contact with clients undergo a background check, but most paperwork is kept to a minimum. Some tasks require only a few hours and can be done from home. Many hands make light work.

Current needs are listed under the Get Involved tab at but as the work expands, so do the specialized areas of expertise. The newest needs listed are for volunteers who can assist clients with cultural orientation, skill certification, employment opportunities, and individual tech support.

The more the outreach expands, the more likely they will be looking for the skills and interests you can offer. Do you have a truck, patience with toddlers, tutoring talents, marketing skills, an empty room in your house, a job opening? Your time to help has arrived. If you have none of those, your time is coming soon.

Together, let’s make Eugene and Lane County known for its welcoming spirit. During this holiday season, what could be better?


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Give Yourself (as) A Gift

December 24th, 2021 by dk

It’s getting late and you didn’t plan ahead. The countdown is shifting now from days to hours. Money doesn’t go as far as you’d hoped. Supply chains have frayed in the frenzy. The world needs a gift this year more than ever, but what do you give a world that has everything? Surprise and delight the world that gives you life. Give yourself.

You could roll on the floor with leftover holiday paper, taping yourself inside the wrap with your teeth. If you do this, remember to first put a ribbon on your head. Loop a gift tag around one ear: “To: the world around me … From: somewhere inside me.” Then curl up under the holiday tree and wait to be shaken. Note: none of this is required.

The world will be delighted with whatever part of you is offered and shared. The world may be an overstuffed closet, already full of many things, but it secretly dreams of someday adding just a little bit more of you — your passions, your knowledge, your energy, your experience. In all the world, these could come from only one giver. And that’s you.

It would be easier if I were more specific. We all wish for that extra layer of direction. Since the words were invented, humans have whispered “if only.” If only I do this one thing, then I’ll be a good person, then I’ll go to heaven, then I’ll make a difference, then I’ll be remembered, then I’ll be loved.

There is no one thing that the world wishes it could have from you. The choosing is the gift.

If a need tugs at you, do what you can to fill it. It may not be tugging at anyone else in quite the same way. Inside that crazy wrapping and beneath that ridiculous bow is only one gift, only one you, only one solution to only one problem.

Will your grandchildren need shade in the yard, long after you’re gone? Plant a tree. Does the planet want to breathe easier? Tune up your bicycle. Do people need to read more? Give a book, or write one. Does your neighborhood lack a little joy? Play music on your front porch, or inside with the windows open. The best gifts are often not asked for. The need sometimes appears after the gift.

This may not be useful to you, but I’m signing up to help arriving refugees from Afghanistan learn the spoken and unspoken languages of Eugene. I’ve been to that part of the world and marveled at the strength that springs from hardship. I know language is uniquely empowering. I want them to feel welcome here, as I did there.

I’ll write a separate column entirely about the Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County and the many volunteer needs they have — suddenly and urgently — to help arriving refugees and asylum-seekers. I’ll post that column on my website. You can also find more details under the Get Involved tab at

I consider Eugene a perfect place to get involved. I’m wrapping it up right now.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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